June 15, 2024 2:29 AM

From Homeless to Home – A Story of Hope



October 10 is world Homeless Day, a date to think of those without a roof over their heads and it is more common than you think.

James and Alyse Etienne now live in their forever home, a family happy and secure in the knowledge they have secure accommodation, and it is a far cry from where they were a few years ago.

James lived with his father on his farm at Yarramalong at the foot of the Watagan mountains, but the time came when the farm was too much for James’ dad and they sold up with dad moving to Muswellbrook to be closer to his daughter and specialised medical support.

James moved his family to the Upper Hunter to help care for his Dad.

He found his way to Singleton where the family spent 12 months in a caravan but when that abruptly came to an end and with nowhere else to live, the family ended up spending three months camping in local bushland before heading to Lake Liddell to live in a tent.  They were content with the camping facilities and the kids just thought it was one long holiday until one night they were hit by a massive storm.

A tent pole snapped and ripped through the tent.  It was a moment James said it was the last straw.  He had applied for rentals since coming to the Upper Hunter but just got one rejection after another.  James was trying his best to be the provider he wanted to be, but it just wasn’t working out. He is a proud man, determined to care for his family and didn’t want to ask anyone for help.  He was doing it on his own but this time, he was at rock bottom.

His wife, Alyse knew of the work of community housing and this storm was the catalyst for James to finally, after two years of uncertainty and precarious living, to reach out and ask someone to help their homeless situation.

That night they were put up in a motel for two nights in Singleton that led to transitional housing for 18 months and they have now been in their Home in Place for nine months.

“I didn’t want to ask for help but I had no choice, I couldn’t put my wife and kids through this any longer and when we were finally handed the keys to our home, I felt like a tonne of bricks were lifted off my shoulders.

“It was a case of swallowing my pride and I am so pleased I did; I urge others to begin this path before they end up in a similar situation to me.

James has been diagnosed with emphysema and while the news isn’t great, he says he feels enormous relief knowing his wife and kids will have a roof over their head.

The Etienne family are one of Upper Hunter Homeless’ good news stories but sadly, the homeless situation in the Hunter region is in crisis.

Marina Lee-Warner from Upper Hunter Homeless says affordable housing and homelessness is as big an issue in the Upper Hunter as it is in the city.

“People are couch surfing, homes are overcrowded, there are the complex issues of mental health, drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence and we are seeing the most rapid growth of homelessness is for women over the age of 55,” Marina said.

But there is support and it is stories such as James’ that give people hope.

Pop-up information tables will be set up on October 10 at Singleton Square, Muswellbrook Fair and Scone Neighbourhood Centre from 10am to 2pm.

These will showcase support services for people who are homeless or who are at risk of being homeless.